Articles play an important role in English, so it is important to pay attention to this topic. There are many details of using articles. Here we explain the basic rules that will help you avoid many mistakes in speech.
a / an (indefinite article)
1. The indefinite article a is used when a person or an object which is being discussed is unclear or unimportant for us:
The teacher is talking to a student from my class. (we do not give any details about a student the teacher is talking to).
Give me a camera. (just a camera, not some definite one).
2. An indefinite article is used when it comes to a representative of a class of objects:
A giraffe is the tallest animal on the Earth.
Let us now understand why there are two indefinite articles.
We use an article a before consonant sounds (s, t, r ...):
A restaurant, a dog, a street ...
The article an is placed before the vowels (a, o, e ...) and unpronounced h for a more melodic sound:
An apple, an hour ...
The (definite article)
The name of the article speaks for itself.
1. We use the definite article the, when it is clear who or what we are talking about:
The car is dirty. (everyone understands exactly which car is dirty)
Give me the camera. (it's the camera I'm pointing at or the camera that's in your hand)
2. We also use the, when the things we are talking about are unique:
What is the capital of Italy? (in Italy there is only one capital).
3. Speaking about the names of musical instruments and dances we need the as well: the guitar, the tango, etc.
4. The definite article is used with most geographical names:
- rivers, oceans, canals: the Thames, the Panama canal, the Atlantic;
- groups of islands, mountain ranges, deserts: the Seychelles, the Alps, the Sahara;
- parts of the world: the North / East / South / West.
There are situations where articles are not necessary at all.
1. We DO NOT use any articles with the PLURAL number and UNCOUNTABLE nouns:
I drink water.
Books are better than films.
Sugar is not very useful.
2. We need zero article before language names, countries (which do not include the words State, Kingdom or Republic), cities, streets, nationalities, people's names, and also the names of months and days.
We speak English.
They do not speak Chinese.
Expressions to remember:
Have a bath/shower, have a rest, make a cake, have a drink, leave a message, etc.
At the station, to the cinema, play the piano, in the evening/morning/afternoon, etc.
At home, at school, go to work, go to bed, have breakfast/dinner, in hospital, etc.
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